Bush’s National Guard file missing records
September 5, 2004
WASHINGTON – Documents that should have been written to explain gaps in President Bush’s Texas Air National Guard service are missing from the military records released about his service in 1972 and 1973, according to regulations and outside experts.
For example, Air National Guard regulations at the time required commanders to write an investigative report for the Air Force when Bush missed his annual medical exam in 1972. The regulations also required commanders to confirm in writing that Bush received counseling after missing five months.
No such records have been made public and the government told The Associated Press in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that it has released all records it can find.
Outside experts suggest that National Guard commanders may not have produced documentation required by their own regulations.
“One of the downfalls back then in the National Guard was that not everyone wanted to be chief of staff of the Air Force. They just wanted to fly or maintain airplanes. So the record keeping could have been better,” said retired Maj. Gen. Paul A. Weaver Jr., a former head of the Air National Guard. He said documents may not have been kept.
Challenging the government’s declaration that no more documents exist, the AP identified five categories of records that should have been generated after Bush skipped his pilot’s physical and missed five months of training.
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“Each of these actions by any member of the National Guard should have generated the creation of many documents that have yet to be produced,” AP lawyer David Schulz wrote the Justice Department Aug. 26.
White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said there were no other documents to explain discrepancies in Bush’s files.
The AP talked to experts unaffiliated with either campaign who have reviewed Bush’s files for missing documents. They said it was not unusual for guard commanders to ignore deficiencies by junior officers such as Bush. But they said missing a physical exam was not common.
“It’s sort of like a code of honor that you didn’t go DNF (duty not including flying),” said retired Air Force Col. Leonard Walls.
Bush has said he fulfilled all his obligations. He was in the Texas Air National Guard from 1968 to 1973 and was trained to fly F-102 fighters.
Records of Bush’s service have significant gaps, starting in 1972. Bush has said he left Texas that year to work on the Senate campaign in Alabama of family friend Winton Blount.
The five kinds of missing files are:
— A report from the Texas Air National Guard to Bush’s local draft board certifying that Bush remained in good standing. The government has released copies of those DD Form 44 documents for Bush for 1971 and earlier years but not for 1972 or 1973. Records from Bush’s draft board in Houston do not show his draft status changed after he joined the guard in 1968.
— Records of a required investigation into why Bush lost flight status. When Bush skipped his 1972 physical, regulations required his Texas commanders to “direct an investigation as to why the individual failed to accomplish the medical examination,” according to the Air Force manual at the time.
— A written acknowledgment from Bush that he had received the orders grounding him. His Texas commanders were ordered to have Bush sign such a document; but none has been released.
— Reports of formal counseling sessions Bush was required to have after missing more than three training sessions. Bush missed at least five months’ worth of National Guard training in 1972. No documents have surfaced indicating Bush was counseled or had written authorization to skip that training or make it up later.
— A signed statement from Bush acknowledging he could be called to active duty if he did not promptly transfer to another guard unit after leaving Texas.